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British boxers clinch medals

8/7/2012

LONDON -- Although the British boxers must wait a few days
to add their medals to the home team's enormous Olympic haul,
they're lining up for big weekend bouts and even bigger
celebrations.

Middleweight Anthony Ogogo and super heavyweight Anthony Joshua
both clinched medals in quarterfinal bouts Monday night,
guaranteeing Britain will win at least four Olympic medals in front
of its frenzied home fans.

Ogogo jumped ahead early in a 15-10 victory over Germany's
Stefan Haertel, and Joshua knocked down China's Zhang Zhilei during
a 15-11 win in the session's final bout. Although two of the three
British women lost their quarterfinals earlier in the day,
flyweight Nicola Adams also earned a medal - and three more British
men could clinch in the next two days.

Ogogo isn't surprised by the British dominance in the amateur
sport, which has its roots in Amir Khan's silver medal as the only
fighter in Athens eight years ago. After the British brought home
three medals from Beijing, they'll have even more in London.

"We've got the best coaches in the world," Ogogo said. "We've
got the best team in the world, in my eyes."

When the fans weren't singing and making up cheers for their new
pugilistic stars, they watched lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko of
Ukraine clinch his second Olympic boxing medal with a 14-9 victory
over Puerto Rico's Felix Verdejo on Monday night. Later,
middleweight Vijender Singh was eliminated in the biggest blow yet
to the beleaguered Indian team.

Evaldas Petrauskas also secured Lithuania's first-ever Olympic
boxing medal, beating Italy's Domenico Valentino in a 16-14 upset.
Valentino's teammate, defending gold medalist Roberto Cammarelle,
barely survived his quarterfinal super heavyweight bout, edging
Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui 12-11.

The dynamic Lomachenko was tested in his quarterfinal bout with
Verdejo, who constantly moved forward to challenge the two-time
world champion. Verdejo's aggression forced Lomachenko to show off
his defense, reflexes and stunning footwork, and it all added up to
another comfortable win for the Beijing Olympics' best boxer.

Verdejo still scored more points than Lomachenko allowed in any
of his five dominant victories in Beijing, although the amateur
scoring system has since been altered in ways that encourage higher
scores.

"I fought a good fight against a top-notch fighter," Verdejo
said. "I hope this experience will help me grow as a fighter."

Lomachenko earned a tough semifinal bout against Cuba's dynamic
Yasnier Toledo, who beat Kazakhstan's Gani Zhailauov 19-11.

Petrauskas' win was a stunner. Valentino is a veteran amateur
who recently signed with AIBA's professional boxing program.

The undersized Petrauskas, who idolizes Mike Tyson, fights a
crowd-pleasing style that got an ovation when his victory was
announced.

Japan also clinched its second medal in London after winning
just three boxing medals in its previous history when second-seeded
middleweight Ryoto Murata beat Turkey's Adem Kilicci 17-13.

But the Indian team had another night to forget.

Singh's 17-13 loss to Uzbekistan's Abbos Atoev cast a pall over
ExCel arena, where hundreds of Indian fans had hoped the Beijing
medalist could rescue their sinking team.

Singh became a national icon four years ago by winning bronze,
India's first medal in Olympic boxing. India's amateur boxing
culture expanded rapidly after Beijing, and seven men qualified for
London along with flyweight Mary Kom, who secured a medal with a
quarterfinal victory earlier Monday.

But the Indian men have been hit by constant misfortune in this
tournament, from a handful of close decisions to AIBA's reversal of
welterweight Krishan Vikas' win over Errol Spence of the U.S. for
an accumulation of uncalled holding fouls. Only light flyweight
Devendro Laishram is still alive on the men's side.

Singh didn't dominate Atoev, but couldn't get the decision
against a fighter he shut out at the Asian Games two years ago.
Singh rushed to the locker room, but assistant coach Blas Iglesias
shouted: "It's a mafia! It's a mafia!"

Ogogo got off to a strong start against Haertel, who injured his
hand in the first round and couldn't fight with his usual
aggression. Ogogo held on to the decision despite Haertel's strong
third round.

"It's nice to have an insurance policy," Ogogo said of his
guaranteed bronze. "But I have dreamed about becoming an Olympic
champion since I was 12 years old, so that's what I'm going for."

The crowd was more than ready when Joshua finally walked to the
ring well after 11 p.m. in London, and the hulking super
heavyweight delivered one of the games' most crowd-pleasing fights.

He recorded a clean knockdown in the second round, a rarity in
elite amateur boxing, connecting with a right to the jaw that sent
Zhang sprawling to the canvas. With the home crowd chanting "Who
are ya?" at the theoretically groggy Zhang, Joshua finished up his
second win and set up a semifinal bout with Kazakhstan's imposing
Ivan Dychko.

"That's what a medal represents, is the journey," Joshua said.
"It won't stop here. I'm just going to get tougher."

Top-seeded super heavyweight Magomed Medzhidov of Azerbaijan
grinded out a 17-14 win over Russia's Magomed Omarov to earn a date
with Cammarelle on Friday.